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Denise Leathers
Denise Leathers
Denise Leathers

Consumer needs are changing fast, so it’s important to plan for what’s next. A new McKinsey report identifies five priorities for 2022.

While it makes sense that inflation, supply chain disruptions and the labor shortage are keeping CEOs up at night, we were a bit surprised to learn how many are also troubled by the industry’s inability to get ahead of tomorrow’s problems today. The concern is that companies still operating in crisis mode more than two years after the pandemic first struck are working so hard just to get products on shelves that long-term goals around sustainability, innovation and other key objectives have fallen by the wayside. That shortsightedness, they fear, could come back to bite us.


Of course, retailers are facing the same problem. But it’s hard to think ahead when deliveries are delayed, prices are going up faster than shelf tags can be changed and key vacancies remain unfilled. The fact is, though, that consumer habits continue to evolve more rapidly than ever before. So if retailers want to stay in business, they need to not only keep up but get ahead.

To help them prioritize their efforts, a new report from McKinsey & Co. on the State of Grocery in North America outlines five key trends for 2022 and how retailers can respond:

1. The rise of the value-conscious, healthier-eating consumer: A whopping 45% of shoppers say they’re looking for ways to save money while 40% are planning to eat healthier, creating opportunities for grocers to add more better-for-you products to their private label lineups.

2. Elevated consumer expectations for omni-channel: Online shopping is here to stay, so it’s important to create a more seamless, personalized experience, including customized offers and recommendations. Consistent assortments, pricing and promos across channels are key, as are upgraded apps.

3. Increased emphasis on sustainability: Consumers are more aware of the consequences of their purchasing behaviors, and 74% will buy or boycott brands based on their values. That goes for supermarkets, too. So be sure your environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies meet shopper expectations.

4. Strategic workforce planning and investment in tech and analytics: It’s estimated that 54% of current retail activities can be automated, which will help offset the labor shortage. But in order to keep pace with changing workforce requirements, other employees will need to be reskilled, so it’s important to start now.

5. Growing importance of ecosystems and partnerships: As margin pressure builds, grocers can leverage customer loyalty — and data — to create growth beyond the core by teaming up with tech companies, delivery companies and others on new ventures.


Although we all hoped that 2022 would be the year we finally got “back to normal,” it’s clear that’s not going to happen. In fact, retailers are once again facing unprecedented challenges. But life goes on. So take a look at these five trends and ask what your organization is doing to meet these new needs. And if you’re not doing enough, make it a priority to do more. As Tony Morgan, founder of The Unstuck Group, says, “You can either spend your time moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.”

Denise Leathers

Denise Leathers

Denise is the Editorial Director for Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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